How often should I exercise?

We’ve all heard that exercise is good for us and that we should be doing more, but still studies show that only 30% of us get enough. There is no magic formula to good health but a combination of good diet and staying active comes very close.

The World Health Organisation has established that exercise lowers the risk of:

  • coronary heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Colon and breast cancer
  • Depression and anxiety (relieves symptoms for those who have these)
  • Hip or vertebral fractures
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Falls in older adults

Exercise improves cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, meaning the heart and lungs are working better and the muscles are stronger.  People who exercise are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.  Other benefits include improved sleep patterns, and cognitive function.

So how much do we need?  150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, divided how you chose into chunks no smaller than 10 minutes.  30 minutes a day 5 days a week, 10-12 minutes twice a day, or you may have more time at the weekend so get more exercise in then.  It could be walking the dog, washing the windows, dancing in the living room or gardening-as long as your heart rate and breathing is increased you know you are working hard enough.  The simple “sing/talk/gasp” test will help, if you can sing while exercise or speak in long sentences you need to work harder.  If you can barely utter a word, slow down a little.

For children the recommendations are for 60minutes every day, all activity no matter how short counts.  Some children achieve this easily with sports but for others their interests may be more sedentary so activity must be encouraged, they could join you on your walks or cycles, or even the housework!   Introduce them to other activities – orienteering, swimming, dancing, or the old favourites skipping and hop scotch-you could play it with them!

It doesn’t have to cost, use the resources on our door step, walking in the park, or follow the Sli na Slainte trail in town.  Dust off the bicycles, skipping rope or hiking boots in the shed, get the water proofs ready and go.  Set up a circuit for the whole family, up and down stairs, sit to stand from the sofa, sit ups, jumping jacks, jogging on the spot.

If you haven’t been exercising recently remember to start off slowly and gradually build up the intensity and duration.  What will feel tough and the start will soon become easier.  Slight breathlessness is to be expected, however feeling unwell, light headed or pain is not, this should be checked with GP.

Stick to it, set goals for yourself, whether it’s to cycle for 20 minutes without a break, or the mallow 10 mile race in March a goal will keep you motivated. Perhaps you’re planning a hiking holiday or just want to keep up with the kids a destination will assist you on your journey to a fitter healthier you.